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Notary Bulletin

The Transition Process: From Signing Agents To Certified Signing Specialists

Nov--Mag-Cover.jpgWith tens of thousands of Signing Agents and numerous lenders, title companies and signing services in the real estate finance environment, there is naturally going to be a transition period before the Certified Signing Specialist program is fully in place. Here’s how the transition will work:

  • In the coming months the Signing Professionals Workgroup will create the exam and begin to approve vendors authorized to offer the Certified Signing Specialist designation program.
  • Once that occurs, you will be able to obtain your certification from vendors such as the NNA.
  • In the interim, the NNA has updated its current certification program to comply with the Certified Signing Specialist Standards, and you will continue to be an NNA Certified Notary Signing Agent.

Some lenders and title companies are already requiring the annual background screenings, as prescribed in the Standards. Here’s how to accomplish that:

  • If you purchased a background screening-Notary Signing Agent certification package from the NNA in 2013, wait until we contact you. Your screening meets the Standards. The NNA will contact you one year after your last screening to authorize another at no extra cost.
  • If you purchased a screening from the NNA in 2012, we will contact you to let know that you need to be re-screened. That screening will be offered at a one-time discounted fee of $39.
  • If you purchased a screening from the NNA in 2011, you will need to be re-screened. That screening is offered at a new $65 rate.
  • If you purchased a background screening from another vendor in 2013, send us a copy of your receipt. You will be given a store credit for the amount you paid for that screening when you purchase a new screening from the NNA at $65.
  • Going forward, the normal cost of the more rigorous annual background screening compliant with the Signing Specialist Standards as well as the Certified Signing Specialist annual exam from the NNA is $65.

The NNA's current, SPW-compliant Background Screening includes the following checks:

  • 10-Year Search Of Criminal Records
  • Social Security Number Trace-confirms identity and provides address history where criminal record searches will be conducted
  • Motor Vehicle Records
  • National Sex Offender Database search-this is an automatic disqualification for a positive match
  • Nationwide Criminal Database
  • Federal District Court Search
  • USA Patriot Act search (Automatic disqualification for positive match):

-United Nations Named Terrorist List
-Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons
-Bank of England Sanctions
-Department of Defense Trade Controls (DTC) Debarred Parties
-U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security Unverified Entity List
-U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security Denied Entity List

Updated 8-21-14: There are eleven (11) states where convictions can only be reported for seven (7) years. The states are: CA, CO, KS, MD, MA, MT, NV, NH, NM, NY, and WA. New York has restricted the criminal checks available for past or current resident to a statewide level and does not offer county criminal court searches. New York is the only state with this restriction. DMV record searches are unavailable in the states of WA and PA.

As mentioned above, the SPW is developing procedures for approving vendors to offer certification services, such as background screening and certification exams. The SPW believes that a strong vendor management program is crucial to the success of the Standards because vendors will be the ones verifying that you are properly qualified. To be approved to offer certification services, vendors will have to demonstrate that their programs fully comply with the Standards. The SPW also will create a system to monitor and audit vendors to make sure that their certification services remain in compliance with the Standards.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

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